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Industry expects stricter safety rules after collapse

Five dead and 12 injured as steel reinforcement mesh collapses on workers at Dubai airport

Industry experts expect safety regulations to be further tightened as a result of last week’s tragic accident at Dubai airport. Five workers died and 12 were injured.

Dubai’s reputation is at stake and investigations have already begun into the reasons for the tragedy. The results could provide the basis for a stricter regulatory regime in an effort to ensure this kind of accident does not happen again. More effective on-site health and safety (HSE) supervision may be required.
Rules governing construction are already quite strict in the emirate of Dubai.

Collapses such as the one that took place last Monday are rare. “That is why it made the headlines,” one industry spokesman told Construction Week. He said that Dubai is one of the most congested areas in the world in terms of construction activity and pointed out that the higher the level of activity, the greater the probability that something could go wrong. Anywhere from 5000 to 8000 workers are on site every day at the airport: the chance of human error alone is quite high.

At around 11 am last Monday, a 20 m high section of steel reinforcement against the earth at Terminal 3, caved in trapping workers. The collapse of the 150 m long Section A3 killed five workers, four Pakistanis and one Indian, and injured another 12, one of whom is in a state that is “cause for concern,” according to a DCA spokesperson.

Workers interviewed by Construction Week said some 150 to 200 workers from contractor Al Naboodah Laing and some of the suppliers were at Section A3 when it collapsed. The accident took place at the far end of the huge crater in the ground that will be Terminal 3. It is not yet clear how it happened. Some workers said that the beams holding up the wall gave way (the picture shows a bent beam); others said a crane accidentally knocked off a support leading to the collapse.

Work was stopped as emergency personnel went into overdrive. Civil Defence was called in and the police cordoned off the stretch of Dubai airport frontage for smooth flow of emergency vehicles. They guided lines of workers into buses.

Dubai Department of Civil Aviation, later the same day said: “During the preparation of a wall, a section of the reinforcement cage fell trapping workers. Emergency personnel responded immediately.” Twelve injured workers were rescued and sent to Rashid and Al Baraha hospitals while five succumbed. This the first major incident during building.

“It is a tragic situation for all of us at the Department of Civil Aviation. I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased workers. We will conduct a full investigation into the accident,” promised Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, DCA president and chairman of Emirates Group.

He pointed out that the DCA has an extremely strict and most professionally controlled quality assurance and quality control systems in place. “We have three independent safety bodies – one controlled by the contractor, one by the consultant and one by the DCA. We would like to reinforce the fact that safety of all our people working at Dubai airport is top most priority,” he said. DCA handled the crisis reasonably efficiently and openly.

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